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golden moon

Tonight’s July Full Moon is usually called the Buck Moon. I saw on the calendar that there is a Night Hike under the Full Buck Moon at the Sandy Hook National Recreation Area near me in New Jersey. That is a beautiful natural beach area and if all the rain of his week clears out for the evening there, it should be a great setting to observe the ecosystem below that Full Moon.

That Buck Moon name comes at a time of year when a buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. This is known as when the antlers are in velvet. They will do their bloody scraping of those antler and prepare for rutting season closer to autumn.

Both American Indians and colonists used the Buck Moon name, but there are many other American Indian tribal names that use notable nature signs from their geographic region. For example, the Cree noted this as the Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt.

The Lakota called this the Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black and other tribes noted this as the time for huckleberries. Several tribes referenced the corn which was an important crop that they planted and relied upon. This gives us names such as the Corn Moon, Young Corn Moon or Ripe Corn Moon (Cherokee). For the Choctaw this was the Little Harvest Moon or Crane Moon.  depending on your location. The Algonquin called this the Squash Are Ripe Moon.

I used this year the more general Mohawk name of the Time of Much Ripening because wherever you are in the Northern Hemisphere some things are ripening.

And yes, today is also the “century’s longest lunar eclipse” is also today BUT this lunar eclipse is primarily visible from the world’s Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand). In South America, you can watch the final stages of the eclipse just after sunset July 27, whereas New Zealand will catch the beginning stages of the eclipse before sunrise July 28. For those of us in North America, most of the Arctic and much of the Pacific Ocean, we will miss out entirely.

We get a Blue Moon when there is a second full moon in one calendar month. That happens on Wednesday, January 31. But our Moon will also pass through the Earth’s shadow to give us a total lunar eclipse. And the triple play comes with this also being the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons.

There will be another Blue Moon in 2018, and supermoons occur every few months. Eclipses are rarer, but the three occurring all at once is rarer still. This will be the first Blue Moon total eclipse in 150 years for the Americas.

The Moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow (totality) for a bit more than an hour.

The term Blue Moon still makes me think of the song “Blue Moon.” It is an oldie, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. Lots of singers and groups have recorded it (Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé had early hits) and versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, The Mavericks, Dean Martin, The Supremes, Rod Stewart and even an adapted anthem version used by English Premier League football club Manchester City are out there.

But the recording that always pops into my head is the 1961 big hit for doo-wop group The Marcels.

The song pops up in one of my favorite horror-with-a-comedic-twist films, American Werewolf in London, which would be an excellent film to watch on Wednesday night.

If you are more of a listener than watcher, I suggest the film’s soundtrack which is full (no pun intended) of moon songs.

snow-moon-pixa

We can refer to tonight’s February Full Moon as the Snow Moon, Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Old, Storm or Grandfather Moon. Most names for the month refer to very wintery weather. Of course, if you’re in a warmer climate, they may seem inappropriate.

Tonight’s Full Moon also coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse. They are not as spectacular or as noticeable as a total lunar eclipse. When the Moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow (which is known as the penumbra), the shadow blocks part of the sun’s rays. Therefore, the Moon will only appear slightly darker than usual.

To Colonial Americans, this was the Trapper’s Moon or simply the Winter Moon.

Tonight’s Full Moon will fall on a snow-covered Paradelle, so the moonlight should be quite bright, even with that Earth shadow.

solareclipse-pixa

We entered 2017 with a nice pairing of the planets of love and war in the sky. Venus and Mars were close together all through January. The Moon was right there too as the year began and it will work its way back to the planets – at least in our view – as the month ends January 31.

But the major astronomical event of 2017 will be a total solar eclipse. We have not had a total solar eclipse in the mainland U.S. since 1979.

It is two seasons away, but on August 21, 2017 the Moon will completely block the sun, and this solar eclipse can be seen across the United States.

But, you will have to be at the right place at the right time to see totality (when the sun is totally blocked by the moon). There is an area that is a narrow path about 75 miles wide between Oregon and South Carolina that will be prime viewing. You can view a detailed map of the eclipse online.  Perhaps, you should plan now for a little vacation in August to see the eclipse.

If that’s too far off to think about, or if you’re not ready to take an eclipse vacation, then here’s an alternative. On February 11, we will have a penumbral lunar eclipse. This is when the Moon enters the lighter shadow of the earth. But the effect is hard to notice and a lot less cool than the August event.

A total penumbral lunar eclipse dims the moon in direct proportion to the area of the Sun's disk blocked by the Earth. This comparison shows the southern shadow penumbral lunar eclipse of January 1999 (left) to the moon outside of the shadow (right) demonstrates this subtle dimming.

A total penumbral lunar eclipse dims the moon in direct proportion to the area of the Sun’s disk blocked by the Earth. This comparison shows the southern shadow penumbral lunar eclipse of January 1999 (left) to the moon outside of the shadow (right) demonstrates this subtle dimming.  Image via Wikipedia

 

 

If you’re in North America and the Pacific, you may be able to see a very subtle partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon on the morning of March 23, 2016.  Western North America has the eclipse taking place in its sky from start to finish. Look for the eclipse shortly before dawn breaks.

The Moon will look full tonight but it still is a waxing gibbous moon until it “officially” is full on March 23 at 12:01 Universal Time (8:01 a.m. EDT).

There are many names for the monthly Full Moons. I try to choose a new one each year and this time I selected the Earth Cracks Moon. That sounds rather ominous, but it only refers to the heaving soil as we transition into spring with cold nights and warm days. Another name – the Full Worm Moon – also refers to the thawing ground and the earthworm casts that can appear, which delights the robins.

Those names and the Full Crust Moon are all more common with Indian tribes than with the European settlers, though in northern climes all parties would have observed both natural occurrences. To the settlers, it was known by names such as the Lenten Moon and Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees.

Some northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, because the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter, but look at all the names I have uncovered for this winter-into-spring Full Moon:  Fish Moon, Medieval Chaste Moon, (Choctaw) Big Famine Moon,  (Cherokee) Windy Moon,  (Dakotah Sioux) Moon When Eyes Are Sore from Bright Snow, (Celtic) Moon of the Winds, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon, Maple Moon, Chaste Moon, Strong Wind Moon, Moon of Wakening, Light Snow Moon, Flower Time Moon, Cactus Blossom Moon, Rust Moon, Spring Moon, Whispering Wind Moon, Windy Moon, Death Moon, Sleepy Moon, and Big Famine Moon.

Partial phase of the April 14-15, 2014 total lunar eclipse – photo by Fred Espenak

As I wrote last weekend, there is a total eclipse of the moon tonight (September 27-28, 2015).  Being that it is also the closest of this year’s supermoons, there is more drama to the event. For those of us north of the equator, it is a Harvest Full Moon (the one nearest the autumn equinox). It is many named lunar events!

You might also hear the term “Blood Moon” used because this is the fourth and final eclipse in four straight total eclipses of the moon, spaced at six lunar months (full moons) apart. That is known as a lunar tetrad.

The total lunar eclipse is visible from the most of North America and all of South America after sunset tonight.

 

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